Mission Accomplished: Rated NC17

Rated NC17.

Summary: Post Endgame. Phoebe is on a mission to make Kathryn unwind. Over several bottles of red wine things loosen up and life takes a giddy but pleasant turn for our heroic Captain.

Happy Birthday, Amanda. Have a good one my friend.

Thanks to audabee and Corinna for the read throughs.

Disclaimer: CBS/Paramount owns everything. No infringement intended.

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“Okay, give. What was he like?” Phoebe slugged back a half a glass of red wine in one gulp and looked expectantly at her sister.

Kathryn had been home for two weeks, after seven long years away and it was beyond wonderful to have her back, but the woman in front of her wasn’t the Kathryn Janeway Phoebe remembered. This shadow of a woman bore very little resemblance to the fun loving and spirited creature they’d sent on that three-week mission all those years ago.

Phoebe wasn’t insensitive to the trials and wrenching hardships Kathryn had endured – she was a Starfleet brat too – but there was something else going on here. Her mother had known it and that was why she’d been called home. Someone had to get to the bottom of what was wrong with Katie.

Kathryn sipped delicately, savouring the rich peppery flavour of the pinot. “What was who like?”

“Is that even a proper sentence? You’re evading the question. Chakotay. What was he like?”

“He was reliable, stoic, dependable and trustworthy.”

“You make him sound like a St Bernard. I meant, what was he like in bed? Was he as good as he looks?” Phoebe made a sort of growling noise in the back of her throat.

Kathryn blinked, and tried to look mortified – as if the thought of sleeping with him had never crossed her mind. “I have no idea. We didn’t have that sort of relationship.”

Phoebe looked stunned. “You’re kidding! Why the hell not? The man is a walking sex magnet. What’s wrong with you?” She was clearly disturbed by her sister’s admission but then sat forward and studied Kathryn closely. “You haven’t switched teams have you?”

“What?!”

“It’s okay if you have.” Phoebe sat back and waved her hands. “It happens.”

Kathryn shook her head and rolled her eyes. It was late afternoon and they were finishing the bottle of wine they’d started at lunch. Gretchen was visiting friends for a few days and Phoebe had come to visit and keep her company. It was something of a double-edged sword; Phoebe’s constant badgering was beginning to truly irk Kathryn. It was typical of her younger sister but the alcohol was making her even more garrulous and effusive. “Phoebe, you’ve had too much to drink.”

“And you obviously haven’t had enough. I can’t believe, in all that time, you didn’t jump his bones. Seven years, Katie! How could you bear it? Day in, day out; those eyes, that smile…those hands.” There was that growling sound again. “My god, I’m squirming just thinking about it.”

“You’ve definitely had too much to drink. What would Evan say if he could hear you talking about another man like that?”

“He’d be thrilled. I’ll be working off a bit of pent up energy when I get home. He won’t mind at all.” She waggled her eyebrows suggestively and then frowned. “It’s you I can’t believe. You must be about to explode. No wonder you’re all prune-faced and lemon-lipped. You, dear sister, need a good …”

Phoebe! Don’t.”

“Someone’s got to say it. Besides, I’m your sister, not one of your fawning underlings. You can’t demote me or throw me in the brig for insubordination. What you need is an afternoon – no, make that a week – of unadulterated, mind-blowing sex. You, my dear, need to get laid… and fast, before you dry up and whither like those old corn stalks out there.”

Kathryn’s gaze darted towards the cornfields and then back to her sister. She took another measured sip of her wine, although this time it was a more substantial mouthful. If this conversation was heading in the direction she thought, she’d need every ounce of liquid courage. “Thank you so much for your input. I’ll take it under advisement.”

“No you won’t. You’ll sit there looking all superior, your insides knotted so tight you can barely breathe and you’ll justify it in some abysmal way using Starfleet rules and protocols.” Phoebe’s eyes opened wide and she pointed an accusing finger at her sister. “That’s what you did, didn’t you? He wanted a relationship, but you used the old protocol line. Kathryn Janeway you’re a fool.”

Kathryn’s nostrils flared and her eyes sparked with anger. She took a deep breath, ready to retaliate but Phoebe glared her down, daring Kathryn to contradict her.

Without taking her eyes off her older sister, Phoebe reached for the wine, poured herself another glass and topped up Kathryn’s at the same time.

Kathryn’s surge of anger evaporated. There was no arguing with the truth and she turned away.

Shaking her head, Phoebe contemplated her wine for a moment then looked up at Kathryn. “You should be ashamed of yourself. Why, in god’s name did you do it? You could have had it all.” She studied her sister’s face but Kathryn refused to look at her, and turned back towards the window.

The view had become Kathryn’s constant companion since she’d been home. After the initial welcome home party and debriefing, she’d been ensconced in the living room of her mother’s Indiana home and had barely moved in the last fourteen days. Hence everyone’s concern. She knew that’s why Phoebe was here. Her mother was worried about her, hell, she was worried about herself, but she was tired and not a little homesick for her crew and Voyager.

Phoebe studied her sister’s profile and stifled a sigh. She’d been given this assignment by ‘Admiral’ Gretchen and she wasn’t about to fail. The old Kathryn was hiding in there somewhere and if she poked and prodded enough, ‘the feisty one’ was sure to come out, guns blazing. Phoebe was pretty sure she knew where the problem lay.

Over the last couple of days, she’d done her homework; gleaning inside information from Tom Paris and his wife, B’Elanna Torres – whom she liked immensely – and she’d also spoken to several other members of the crew in passing. It seemed as though it had been a forgone conclusion that Kathryn and Chakotay were an item and the fact that he was supposedly now in a relationship with Seven of Nine was a complete surprise to everyone. B’Elanna, for one, was livid. She’d expressed her displeasure in a string of expletives that still had Phoebe’s ears ringing. She loved that Klingon spirit.

Phoebe’s smile faded. Kathryn desperately needed to let her hair down. She was wound up like a spring and needed something to loosen her up. Counsellors and all the talking in the world weren’t going to help her at this point. Drastic measures were in order and if it meant sacrificing her liver and several bottles of good red to the cause, Phoebe was up to the task. She’d do anything to see her sister happy again.

Leaning forward, she tapped her glass against Kathryn’s and toasted. “Slainte.” Phoebe emptied her glass and gave Kathryn a challenging look when she only took a small sip. “You’ve turned into a wimp. Get it into you woman. What are you, a Janeway or an Edosian slug? Drink up.”

Kathryn’s eyes narrowed and she looked at her sister suspiciously. “Are you trying to get me drunk?”

“Hell yes and that’s just for starters. You need to get rip roaring, table-dancing, rock-ballad singing smashed. I remember a time when Kathryn Janeway could drink a Klingon under the table. Don’t tell me you’ve turned into a ‘real’ Starfleet officer and your liver has shrunk. I’m going to be mightily disappointed.”

Phoebe could see the spark of anger in Kathryn’s eyes. “I’ve always been a ‘real’ Starfleet officer.”

“Yeah, sure. Tell that to Admiral Hayes. I’m the one who bailed you out that time, remember.”

“That was a long time ago.”

“Not so long ago and that Kathryn was a hell of a lot more fun that this Kathryn.”

“Oh, thanks so much. It’s good to see you too.”

“Oh don’t get all high and mighty. You know what I mean. I love you, Kathryn. You’re my big sister – my only sister and I adore you. I can’t tell you how glad I am to have you home, but I want my Kathryn back, not this pale imitation of the woman I know. I’m only telling you this for your own good.”

“Hmmm, how many times have I heard that line? The truth is often overrated.”

Phoebe refilled their glasses again and raised her eyebrows in challenge. “It depends on the particular truth.”

Kathryn was tempted to ignore the goading but she was sick and tired of behaving like a good little captain, so she picked up her glass and slugged down the entire contents in one hit, then held her glass out for more.

Phoebe laughed. “That’s the spirit. We’ll get you laid yet.”

Kathryn just shook her head and took a healthy sip of her refilled glass. “Let’s talk about something more interesting than my sex life.”

“Watching paint dry would be more interesting than your sex life. Did you get any at all while you were out there? Surely, there must have been some passing alien who took your fancy.”

Kathryn shook her head.

Phoebe looked aghast. “No one. Remind me not to send my single gal pals to the Delta Quadrant then.”

Shrugging, Kathryn took another sip although a smile twitched at the corner of her mouth. “There were a few opportunities but you have to remember, I was the captain, leader of my community, I had to maintain a certain level of decorum.”

“Okay, that counts for no sex on the bridge, I can understand that, but surely your crew wouldn’t have thought any the worse of you if you’d had a quiet and meaningful relationship with someone. It’s only natural.”

Kathryn opened her mouth, but Phoebe waved her to silence. “Yeah, I know, so is gangrene and you don’t want that.”

“It wasn’t that simple, Phoebes… If I thought I could balance captaining the ship and a relationship, I would have, but my job took up all of my time and energy. There was precious little left to devote to anything or anyone else; it would have ended in disaster, and then what would I do. It wasn’t as if one of us could transfer to another ship or be dropped off at a nearby planet. No, it was best to have left it as it was.”

“Oh, of course, because things have turned out so much better for you. Kathryn, he’s having an affair with the Borg girl. What the hell is that about?”

“I wasn’t talking specifically about Chakotay.”

Phoebe saw the hurt in her sister’s eyes, but she wasn’t going to let that stop her. This was for Kathryn’s own good. “The hell you weren’t. But I’m not going to argue semantics. I just want to know what he’s doing with Seven of Nine and why you haven’t said something.”

“What could I say? I have no hold over him. There were never any promises made and if they were implied, it was a long time ago; life goes on.”

“So he did promise you something. I knew it.”

“You know nothing Phoebe and please, I don’t want to talk about this.” To hide her distress, she took another drink and kept sipping until her glass was empty. She plonked it on the table, picked up the bottle and refilled it. Looking up, she met Phoebe’s gaze and gave her a lopsided smile. “Sorry. I’m out of practice.”

“That’s what I’ve been saying.”

Kathryn huffed a laugh and rolled her eyes. “Do you ever think of anything else? I meant I was out of practice talking about this sort of thing. Sex and relationships were so far removed from my everyday existence out there, I rarely thought about them, let alone talked. Not that there was anyone I could talk to about them anyway. Chakotay was my closest friend and with him, the mention of sex was taboo. It was somewhere we just couldn’t go.”

“More’s the pity, by the sound of things.”

Kathryn shrugged. “We need another bottle, this one’s finished.”

Phoebe was on her feet first and shoved Kathryn back into her seat as she tried to stand. “Stay there, I’ll get it. You don’t know where the good stuff is stashed. Mom thinks I don’t know either, but you can’t keep a secret like that from ‘the Super Phoebes’. I’ll be back in a second. Don’t move from that spot.”

It wasn’t difficult to comply. Kathryn had been sitting there for most of the last two weeks, and she didn’t have plans to move anytime soon. True to her word, Phoebe was back within minutes bringing three bottles with her. “Shall we stick to the pinot or do you want something a little more substantial.”

“The pinot is fine.”

“A little more enthusiasm thanks. This is serious business.” Kathryn didn’t answer and Phoebe shrugged. “Okay, the pinot it is; we can have the Shiraz later, I doubt we’ll care by then.”

Kathryn could feel the warm flush of the alcohol seeping through her veins. Her intention had been to stay sober and not let Phoebe bully her into this, but it was too late. Her tolerance wasn’t what it used to be and she was well on the way to being stonkered. If she were sensible, she wouldn’t do this. Taking all of three seconds to think about it, she quaffed the remainder of the wine in her glass and held it out for more. She was sick and tired of being sensible; fat lot of good it had done her, and if she was going to do this, she may as well do it in style.

An hour and a half and two more bottles of wine later, Kathryn was having trouble standing. She needed to pee. They’d spent the last hour laughing hysterically at some of her less than stellar efforts with the males of various species. Phoebe was still laughing uncontrollably; rolling around on the couch until she slid to the floor.

They’d started with Gath and the pecan pie seduction that went so horribly wrong. Besides, as Kathryn had said, she could never have slept with a man whose hairstyle was more intricate than her own. Then there was the hologram, Lord Burleigh or, as Kathryn had nicknamed him, Lord Hurl-heave… a very unattractive man. She’d been so starved for affection at the time that she’d done something that she’d sworn she never would, she’d kissed a hologram. Kathryn blamed Phoebe for that one, she’d given her the program in the first place.

Pheobe screwed up her nose. “It was a costume drama. Really Kathryn, how very ‘swooning ingénue’ of you.”

They were up to the dark and mysterious Kashyk when she realised she was going to burst if she didn’t get to the bathroom soon. Her inertial dampeners had gone off line an hour ago, not to mention her stabilisers, but after ricocheting her way up the hall, she finally made it to the downstairs john. After much wrestling with her clothing – her hands like numb fists and thumbs that refused to work, she managed to get herself sorted. What relief.

When she was finished, she stood up and, leaning back against the bathroom wall, closed her eyes for a moment. It was a mistake. The internal world of Kathryn Janeway was spinning like an erratic pulsar so she forced her eyes open again and tried to refocus the uncooperative organs. Finally getting them under control, she turned to the basin and the mirror. It wasn’t a pretty sight, but she couldn’t help grinning. Phoebe had done it to her again and she was going to regret it in the morning – no doubt she’d wish she was dead – but for now, she honestly didn’t care. Music starting blaring from the living room and Kathryn could hear Phoebe yelling or perhaps it was singing – it was difficult to tell.

Splashing some water on her face, she took a deep breath. If there was going to be singing she needed to prepare herself. Her shoulder caught on the doorjamb on the way out and she wobbled and spun up the hallway. She managed – not too inelegantly – to flop back into her chair to watch Phoebe attempt a rather off-key rendition of the melancholy Bolian hit, “I’m Blue for You.” It was making Kathryn’s head throb but she bellowed with laughter when Phoebe stage-dived onto the couch, tipping it over and rolled across the room to bump against the far wall. With perfect timing, Phoebe leapt to her feet and made a swooping bow to the final notes of the song.

“Bravo! Encore.” Kathryn clapped enthusiastically.

“Okay, your turn.”

Kathryn shook her head vehemently. “Uh uh. I’ll happily get drunk but there was nothing in the contract about singing. Besides, I’ll make the paint peel and Mom will kill me.”

Phoebe laughed again. “Good thought. All right. You forfeit, so you have to tell me another story about your ‘exploits’ in the DQ.”

“Where were we up to?”

“The handsome bad guy with the telepath fetish.”

“You make him seem so benign rather than the unscrupulous murdering bastard that he was. Handsome though, but a narcis…narcisish…” Suddenly her tongue was twice its size and she gave up. “…very vain, which made him easy to manipulate. The trouble was our lives depended on how successfully I could fool him and I was terrified the whole time that he would wake up to the ruse. He wanted me, or rather he wanted to seduce me, another notch on his gun and he assumed that I wanted him; I played on that. Arrogant bastard. It was the key to his downfall.”

“Where was Chakotay while you were luring this creature into your web?”

“He was holding down the fort. Keeping things running behind the scenes.”

“And what did he think of your plan?”

“He didn’t know about it.”

Phoebe looked at her sister. “So you played footsies with this guy, pretended to be infatuated with him, a victim of his charms… did you sleep with him?”

“God no. How could you even ask that?”

“I don’t know. You sacrificed everything else for the ship and crew; it’s not that much of a leap. I bet it’s what Chakotay thought.”

“He wouldn’t. He knows me better than that.”

“He knows you as he would have seen you. Ready to do anything to save the crew. Did he ever ask you about it?”

Kathryn frowned, remembering the time after Kashyk and the Devore. Chakotay had been quiet and a little withdrawn for a few weeks afterwards. She hadn’t given it much thought at the time. Life carried on, everyone had been exhausted after all those months in Devore space and she just put his reserve down to that. She stared at her sister.

Phoebe stared back. “So it’s all starting to fall into place. Marvellous how a few glasses of wine will lubricate the synapses. He thought you slept with the bastard, you know that, don’t you?”

Kathryn didn’t want to believe it but it was the only explanation. “Damn!”

Grabbing the bottle of wine, Phoebe rationed out the last few sips and waved the bottle at Kathryn. “Do you want another?”

Shaking her head distractedly, she muttered. “No, thanks. I can hardly speak and I’ll be unconscious if I have anymore.”

With a shrug, Phoebe poured the last few drops into Kathryn’s glass and then sat back and waited for more stories. “Okay, that was one monster mistake, who was the next?”

It was hard to concentrate. The alcohol had exacerbated her guilt and it was preying on Kathryn’s mind. To be honest she didn’t want to think of what other misunderstandings there had been. Wasn’t it enough that she’d lost Chakotay, did she have to dredge up all the reasons why. Phoebe was insistent though and prodded her for more information.

This was like some crazy form of therapy but she couldn’t resist the temptation to get everything off her chest. In a way, it was the perfect opportunity to free herself from years of pent up guilt and remorse. She could tell Phoebe anything, without fear of retribution, and knew she would get straight answers and reactions. Phoebe was renowned for shooting from the hip.

Suddenly swamped by an overwhelming need to tell her everything, Kathryn continued.

“Ransom. Rudi Ransom was the next hurdle we stumbled across.”

“Wasn’t he the rogue Starfleet captain who used life forms for fuel? Good choice, Katie.”

“Oh, I didn’t choose him for anything. He was another captain though; someone of equal rank with whom I could talk and befriend. But that quickly went to hell in a hand basket and I followed right on its tail.”

“A teensy break with reality… that’s okay. You were under a lot of pressure.”

“I went nuts.” Kathryn hiccupped, which somewhat undermined the seriousness of the moment.

Phoebe snorted. “You mean nuttier.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence but you’re probably right. I’m surprised anyone spoke to me after that. Chakotay had tried to warn me but I wouldn’t listen. I was being my usual stubborn, pig headed self. After it was all over, he was so kind and forgiving but I never apologised. I tried, but every time I opened my mouth to do it, I felt like crying and then it was too late.”

“How come?”

“Fairhaven.”

“Fairhaven? What’s a fairhaven?”

“It’s a nightmare come true.” Kathryn took the last sip of her wine and sat there looking morose. This trip down memory lane wasn’t much fun, although Phoebe was lapping it up. She decided she may as well get it over with and then she could slink off and lick her wounds. “I made a hologram for myself. He was an Irish publican in a little town called Fairhaven.”

“You made him from scratch. Clever.”

“No, he was already there, but he had a wife, whom I deleted, and I ‘enhanced his parameters’.”

“Ha! Is that what they call it these days? Okay, so you made yourself a walking talking dildo, what’s the biggie?”

Kathryn looked pained and Phoebe stifled a laugh. “Sorry, unfortunate turn of phrase there.”

“Hmm, yes well. The problem was he fell in love with me. It was nice at first, he was quaint and courteous but after a few days, when I realised what I was doing, I felt rather stupid and uncomfortable and I left the simulation. His reaction was to get drunk one night and, in front of half the crew, shout his love for me from the rafters. All I wanted was a bit of companionship and I finished up with a drunken stalker hologram, moping around this Irish village, making my life a torment. Chakotay knew about it. He was kind and understanding, in an irritatingly superior way but I was embarrassed and ashamed. So much for some uncomplicated sex. I’m just not made for it.”

“What? Uncomplicated sex or sex in general?”

“Both.”

Phoebe threw a cushion at Kathryn and emphasised her disagreement with a loud, “Bullshit!”

“Well, you explain it then. It didn’t end with the hologram. The next man I had something to do with, I was under the influence of an alien mind wipe and he had no genitals. How’s that for a tough break. You tell me if that isn’t one enormous cosmic joke.”

“He had no genitals?!” Phoebe was making lewd hand movements and trying hard to keep a straight face but in the end, she couldn’t hold it together. “No genitals!”

Kathryn shook her head, her mouth twisting into a reluctant smile. “Nada.”

“Oh my god, you poor thing.” And slapping her thighs, Phoebe burst into hysterical laughter. Through the coughs and splutters, she pointed at Kathryn. “Don’t you get it? If you’d been with Chakotay, none of these things would have happened. It’s so simple and you’re such a jackass.”

Sitting up, Kathryn opened her mouth to give her sister a piece of what was left of her mind, but then realised it was true. None of the disastrous relationships would have occurred if she’d been with Chakotay and even the ones, like Kashyk that she’d purposely manipulated, would have been far less traumatic. Chakotay would have been in the loop, there for her when she needed back up and she wouldn’t have had to put herself in such danger. The game she’d played with Kashyk had been a dangerous one and there were moments when there had been potential for things to take a dark and frightening turn. She hadn’t wanted to think about it at the time, but it had been a treacherous game of chance.

Sitting quietly while Phoebe finally managed to get herself under control, Kathryn realised that she wasn’t feeling any better than when she’d started; only now she was having trouble remembering her name and which way was up. The room had stopped spinning quite so rapidly but she was still very under the weather and needed coffee, lots of it and soon.

“I need a coffee.”

“No! Coffee can wait, you need a man more and we’re going to get yours.”

“What are you talking about? I don’t have one. We’ve just illustrated that – all too graphically.” She added sotto voce.

Phoebe was up and out of her chair, tugging on Kathryn’s arm, trying to dislodge her from hers. “Come on. My god, you’ve been sitting there for so long you’ve put down roots. Move!”

Her younger sister was an irresistible force and there was no way, in her current state of inebriation that Kathryn was going to be able to do battle with her. She had a very bad feeling about this. It was wrong on so many levels but thanks to Mr Pinot and his best buddy Mr Shiraz, she was beyond making any sort of informed decision and surely, she thought, the humiliation couldn’t get any worse… could it?

Phoebe dragged her upstairs to her bedroom and began pulling her meagre selection of clothes from her wardrobe. “What in god’s name is this stuff?” She held up a particularly dowdy pants suit and looked at Kathryn in horror. “Kathryn Janeway, dressed exclusively by Frumpy Hausfrau Couture. These won’t do at all. Come on.” Grabbing her hand again, they tottered back downstairs and Phoebe accessed the replicator files for something a little more up to date. She stood there, tapping her lips with her forefinger as the outfits scrolled past on the screen. “Yes. That’s it.” Before Kathryn could vet the outfit, Phoebe had ordered it and it was materialising in front of them.

Kathryn was afraid to look, but girding her loins, she picked up the dress and held it by the shoulders. It was a lovely shade of chocolate brown and holding it against herself she managed to grab a quick glance of it in the mirror before Phoebe snatched it from her and herded her back upstairs and into the bathroom.

“Okay, quick shower and then we’re off.”

“Where?”

Phoebe merely gave her a knowing look.

Kathryn shook her head and tried to exit the bathroom. “I don’t think this is a very good idea.”

“Rubbish. Quickly under the sonic, you’ll be done in a jiffy. I’ll be right back.” Phoebe closed the door, leaving Kathryn in the bathroom, the echo of her footsteps fading as she headed back downstairs.

Kathryn contemplated the rather dour looking woman in the mirror and pulled a face, poking out her tongue. Phoebe was right; this miserable looking creature wasn’t a Kathryn Janeway anyone here on Earth would recognise. She used to have fun, she used to do a lot of things and it was time to find the old Kathryn and take a strangle hold of her life and not let go until she’d shaken some sense into it. Time for a shower. When one started talking about facets of one’s own personality as if it was an entity all its own, it was time for a reality check.

She stripped off her clothes and leaning her head against the cool tiles of the shower stall, she let the sonic waves melt away the day’s troubles. Just as she was stepping out of the cubicle, the door burst open and Phoebe was there with some rather flimsy looking lingerie and two more glasses of wine.

“Here, more ammunition,” she dropped the underwear in Kathryn’s hand and then shoved the glass of wine in the other,” and some more courage.”

“I don’t think I could drink another drop without …dropping.”

Phoebe waved her hand dismissively. “Down the hatch, there’s a good captain.” Phoebe took a swig from her glass and gave her sister the once over. “You’ve held up pretty well, considering. Quickly, get dressed.”

Kathryn sipped her wine and smiled as Phoebe left the room. The woman was a one-person steamroller but it was a relief not to have to think about anything or be the one making the decisions. Having Phoebe in charge also gave Kathryn an out. If this all went belly-up, she could blame her little sister. If nothing else, having Phoebe there as the potential scapegoat buoyed her spirits. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

She slipped on the lingerie and looked at herself in the mirror, instantly reconsidering that last thought. The underwear was sexy, slinky and very suggestive. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. “Phoebe, I can’t wear these.”

The door was flung open again and Phoebe whistled soundlessly and gave her a nod. “Nonsense, they’re perfect. Besides, he doesn’t have to know they’re there… the thing is that you do. And, if by chance you do decide to do the naked rumba, he’ll be pleasantly surprised. Here slip this on.”

Phoebe helped Kathryn slip the dress over her head and then spun her around so she could see herself in the mirror. She peered over Kathryn’s shoulder, smiling.

Kathryn had to admit the dress was flattering. It was a very simple but classic design. A low-scooped neck in front and in the back, long tight fitting sleeves, a figure-hugging top that flared at the hips to fall in a full skirt to about mid calf. Phoebe draped a delicate chain around her neck with a single pearl that nestled just above her breasts and with a few strokes of blush, some lipstick and mascara, the new, old Kathryn Janeway was ready to greet the world and one male member of that community in particular.

Picking up both glasses of wine, Phoebe handed Kathryn hers. “Here’s to success and sex. May you have both. Go get ‘em girl.” They tapped their glasses together, quaffed the contents in one go and then thumped the glasses down on the dressing table.

“Ready?”

Kathryn gave a decisive nod and, after three tries, scooped up her shoes before Phoebe dragged her out of the door and down the stairs.

Evan Masters, Phoebe’s husband, was waiting at the bottom of the stairs and Phoebe threw herself into his arms from the third bottom step, wrapping her legs around his waist. “You’re here. Thank you.” She kissed him soundly and, as she slid to her feet, whispered something in his ear that made him smile. He turned to Kathryn.

“Have you been leading my wife astray, Katie? I don’t know what we’re going to do with you. You go swanning off to the Delta Quadrant for years on end; you don’t write, hardly ever call, and then land on the doorstep and ply my better half with alcohol.”

Kathryn was just about to set him straight about who was leading whom astray when she saw Phoebe grinning at her. Then Evan laughed as he took her hand, spinning her around and nodding. “You look damned fine, Kathryn. You’ll knock him dead.”

She wobbled giving Phoebe a chagrined look. “Phoebe! Is there anyone who doesn’t know about this?”

“Hey, I had to tell Evan, he’s our ride. Now come on, we’re already late.”

“Chakotay doesn’t know we’re coming, how can we be late?”

“You’re almost seven years too late. Now get a move on.”

Seven years. It was true and they didn’t have a moment to lose.

*******************************

They beamed to Phoebe’s house in San Francisco and without even catching their breath; Phoebe bundled Kathryn out the door and into the hovercar before she had a chance to change her mind.

Kathryn had no idea where Chakotay was now living but Phoebe had done her homework and within ten minutes, they were pulling up outside a quaint little timber cottage set back from the curb. It wasn’t quite what she expected. It was old and slightly rundown, but homey and surrounded by trees and flowering gardens.

Phoebe leapt out of the front seat and opened the back door of the hovercar. She grabbed Kathryn’s hand and marched her up the steps to the front door. Handing her another bottle of wine, with the wise words of, “You can’t arrive empty handed.” she kissed her sister on the cheek, patted her hair into place, rang the doorbell and ran back down the stairs to the waiting car.

Kathryn wasn’t sure what to do. She’d been abandoned. Phoebe hadn’t said anything about this in her plan. In fact, now that she thought about it, there hadn’t really been a plan, other than the notion that she needed to ‘get laid’.

The door opened and she jumped, letting out a sort of strangled yelp. It was very uncaptainlike. He was there. Standing in front of her, looking surprised and, she couldn’t help noticing, incredibly handsome.

Her mind went blank; she’d forgotten how to speak. All brain functions had stalled but his hadn’t, thank god.

“Kathryn! What a surprise!”

That got the ball rolling and she thrust the bottle of wine at him. Staggering slightly, she listed dangerously to port for a breathless moment then righted herself and grinned. “Hello, Chakotay. I’ve come to visit.”

Taking the bottle of wine and, at the same time, putting a steadying hand under her forearm, he peered out into the street in time to see a hovercar with a suspiciously familiar looking woman sitting in the front seat, waving at them as it sped off into the distance. So, Phoebe Janeway was behind this. That should make it interesting. He focussed on his visitor, something that she was having obvious trouble doing.

“Are you all right, Kathryn?”

“I’m fine, really, very fine. I could do with a coffee or six though.”

He lifted the bottle, turning the label towards her. “Are you sure you don’t want another glass of this?”

“Another? What makes you think I’ve had some already?”

“Oh, just a wild guess. Coffee it is, then. I’ll put this away for later. Come in.”

Kathryn missed the step, tripped and stumbled into his arms.

Trying not to laugh, he waited for her to do the usual thing and jolt away from him as if scalded, but she didn’t. She stayed in his arms for a long moment and then with a sigh, patted his front several times as she pulled back and slurred. “You smell good.”

Her hand trailed down his front as she reluctantly stepped away and stood up straight… well, as straight as her altered state of perception would allow.

Chakotay smiled at her affectionately. He hadn’t seen her this uninhibited – or inebriated – in years. “Come on; let’s get that coffee into you. How much have you had to drink?”

“I have no idea; I lost count of the glasses after we’d finished the third bottle. It seemed a bit pointless.”

He grimaced. “It does when you’re talking those quantities. I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes tomorrow.”

“’In my shoes’ wasn’t quite what I had in mind.”

He jolted to a stop and stared at her.

She slapped her hand over her mouth and stared at him wide-eyed. Her muffled voice came from behind her hand. “Did I just say that aloud?”

He nodded, his face breaking into a broad grin.

Kathryn grimaced and then pointed towards the front door. “It’s Phoebe’s fault.”

Nodding again, this time slowly, he said disbelievingly, “Sure.” and still grinning, picked up her hand, kissed her fingers and holding it in his, began walking with her towards the kitchen.

She intended to argue her innocence, but his hand was so warm and hers felt so secure clasped in its firm grip, she stayed silent. Unable to tear her eyes away from their joined hands, she stared at them as he guided her into the kitchen.

They were standing still and it took Kathryn a moment to realise that he was watching her. Looking up, she met his eyes. His look was kind but candid and glancing back at their joined hands again, she felt this awful fullness in her chest and her heart started to ache terribly.

Unable to contain the emotion, her face began to crumple and she tried to pull her hand away, but he wouldn’t let her go. She made a strange hiccupping sound and felt tears burn in her eyes. The alcohol had demolished her walls of restraint and reserve and even as she tried desperately to find purchase in the familiar yet lonely void she’d lived in for the last seven years, the last remnants of the Kathryn-of-old refused to let her run and hide.

She squeezed his hand tightly and wiped her eyes, meeting his gentle gaze with an open look of her own. “I’m sorry.”

Chakotay frowned for a moment and was about to ask what for, when realisation hit and he swallowed. He shook his head. “No, Kathryn, no.”

His words were like a phaser blast. Oh god, of course he didn’t want to hear this. He was in love with Seven and she shouldn’t have said anything. Damn it. Damn it to hell.

Tugging her hand free, she licked her dry lips and swayed, but held his eyes and began to ramble. “I wasn’t going to do this. I wasn’t going to come anywhere near you, but we had the wine and Phoebe is impossible but you’re right, I shouldn’t be here. Seven will be upset; I have no place being here. I’m so sorry. I’ll go.” With as much dignity as she could muster, she spun around and headed unsteadily out the door and into the hallway. It wasn’t until she was almost to the front door that she realised she had nothing with her. Phoebe and Evan were long gone and she had no way of getting home. She couldn’t stay here having made such a fool of herself. She was mortified, so, after a split second’s hesitation, she opened the front door, closed it behind her and sat on the veranda’s top step to gather her wits.

Slumping sideways, her head thudded against the timber veranda post and she closed her eyes. The world was still spinning unpleasantly and she felt like a prize idiot. What in god’s name had possessed her to come here? Seven was most likely somewhere inside and she and Chakotay were probably discussing how pathetic and sad she was. She started to feel sick and opened her eyes in the vain hope of quashing the churning nausea. It was toss up between the wine and the circumstances as to the cause, but it didn’t matter, she was going to throw up. Jumping quickly to her feet, she stumbled down the last few steps, rounded the side of the house and promptly vomited into a garden bed filled with mauve and yellow freesias. This was just perfect. She’d hit rock bottom, her humiliation was complete or so she thought.

Gentle hands, swept her hair away from her face and held it back as she retched onto the flowers.

Now it was complete.

If he ever spoke to her again it would be a miracle. She’d made a monumental fool of herself, insulted him with her pathetic attempts at seduction and now she’d massacred an entire garden bed of his flowers.

When she was finished, he handed her a handkerchief to wipe her mouth and before she could say anything or even look at him, he swept her into his arms, carrying her up the stairs and back inside the house. The copious amounts of alcohol had come home to roost. She felt better for having thrown up, but could barely keep her eyes open. Leaning her head against his shoulder, she let his scent, the warm strength of his arms and the rocking motions as he walked lull her into unconsciousness. Her last disjointed thought was that she’d worry about the consequences later.

*******************************

Somewhere in the periphery of her perception there was light. It wasn’t bright but it was definitely there. Kathryn tried to lick her dry lips but her tongue was like sandpaper and she couldn’t move it properly. For a moment, she expected to hear the Doctor’s acerbic commentary on how she’d wound up in sickbay again due to some failing on her part but then she remembered they weren’t on Voyager anymore. One eye opened a slit and she did a quick survey of her surroundings. Brilliant. She had no idea where she was. Her head was pounding though and she was parched. Like a bucket of cold water, memories of yesterday came rushing back and she sat bolt upright in bed.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

Too late. Kathryn groaned and grabbed her head in the hope that her brain wouldn’t fall out. “Oh, god. I’m going to kill her – if I don’t die first.”

Chakotay chuckled. He assumed she meant Phoebe. “No doubt she’s feeling much the same as you are now.”

“If there is a god she’s feeling worse.”

There was that warm chuckle again and then he moved closer. “Here we are.”

Something cold touched her neck and there was a comforting hiss as he administered a detox med. She slumped back onto the bed with her arm draped over her eyes and muttered, “Thank you.”

The relief was almost instantaneous and knowing that she had no excuse for putting it off any longer, she pulled her arm away and looked up at Chakotay.

Smiling, he held a mug of coffee in one hand and a glass of orange juice in the other. He placed the coffee on the bedside table and handed her the juice. “Have this first, you need the sugar hit and then there’s a big pot of coffee over there for you to work your way through. I’m just going to have a quick shower. Make yourself at home.”

She looked down at the bed. It was obviously his and she muttered quietly to herself. “It looks like I already have.”

“I slept on the couch, don’t worry.”

Kathryn looked up and gave him an apologetic smile. “I wasn’t.”

Before he could say anything else, she swung her legs over the side of the bed. She was still wearing her new dress however, he’d taken her shoes off when he’d put her to bed in her drunken stupor the evening before. He didn’t say anything else, but she could feel his eyes on her before he turned and moved down the hall to the bathroom. She had no idea what she was going to say to him or Seven. God, she hoped the young woman wasn’t here.

Trying not to think of anything other than rehydration, Kathryn picked up the juice and drank it all. Taking a few deep breaths, she stood and stretched. Her mouth still felt furry, but the detox hypo had done its work. Her headache was gone and she didn’t feel as though she was on death’s door anymore, but in the scheme of things, her hangover was the least of her problems. She now had to deal with the ramifications what she had done yesterday, the awful position she’d put Chakotay in and her own appalling behaviour. It was very tempting to run away, however, after yesterday’s abortive attempt, it wasn’t her first option. These thoughts only served to remind her that she owed him several potted plants. She cringed as she remembered that particular highlight.

“Head still sore?”

She started and turned towards him, shaking her head. “No, it’s fine, thank you.” Her words were stilted and wooden.

“Are you up to some breakfast? I was going to have some porridge, but I can make some eggs, or anything you fancy?”

Kathryn shook her head. His reaction to all of this was disarming and she wasn’t sure quite how to deal with it or him. “Why are you being so nice to me?” She could have kicked herself when she heard the words spill from her lips. They sounded petulant and childish. He was being nice to her because he was a better person than she was and felt sorry for her. She shook her head. “Don’t answer that. It was a stupid question… true to form. At least I’m consistent.” Turning she began hunting for her shoes. “If you could lend me a few credits, I’ll arrange a lift back to Phoebe’s and leave you in peace.”

“So you don’t want porridge or eggs. How about some fruit?”

Kathryn turned to him again and stared. “Did you hear a word I said?”

Chakotay shrugged. “Kathryn calm down. It’s just breakfast and yes, I did hear what you said, but I’m choosing to ignore it because I’d like you to stay.”

She put her hands on her hips ready to battle, then realised what she was doing and let them drop to hang loosely by her side. “I have no idea why. I’ve been a charming guest.”

He grinned. “You were delightful and a welcome bit of comic relief.”

“Tell that to your flowers.”

“Hmmm, yes well, it could have been worse. It could have been the cat.” He tugged at his earlobe and gave her a guilty grin. “I’ll tell you about that one day.”

Her mouth twisted into a wry smile and she glanced down at where her shoes were tossed into the corner and then looked back at him. “Porridge sounds wonderful.”

Chakotay smiled broadly and chafed his hands together. “Coming up.” He pointed down the hallway. “If you would like a shower, there are towels in the cupboard in the bathroom. Help yourself.”

Kathryn smiled at him and nodded. He was about to turn away and she stepped forward and grabbed his arm, stopping him. “Thank you.”

He grinned, leant forward and kissed her forehead, then, without a word, turned and made his way to the kitchen. In a daze, Kathryn watched him walk away. A smile slowly spread across her face. His head popped around the corner of the door. “Ten minutes, Kathryn or, like Mama Bear’s, it will be cold.”

She opened her mouth to ask what the hell he was talking about, but instead she took off towards the bathroom. She would ask him later.

Standing in front of the mirror for a moment, she contemplated the face before her. It was the same one that had looked back at her yesterday, but there was a world of difference. She wasn’t quite sure what was happening or where this was heading but the ache in her chest was starting to ease and a seed of hope was taking root. First things first. She opened the cupboard and grabbed a towel. Tossing her clothes into the cleanser so they’d be ready when she finished, she stepped into the shower. The hot water was bliss. There were a couple of bottles of shampoo and conditioner on a shelf and reaching up, she opened one and sniffed – it reminded her of the deliciously distinctive scent that he wore. Smiling, she poured some into her hand and worked the lather through her hair; it seemed intimate somehow, to use his things.

When she was washed, rosy pink and relaxed from the hot water, she stepped out of the shower, dried and dressed in her clean clothes. Taking her towel with her, she headed towards the kitchen and the delicious smell of porridge and coffee.

“Kathryn.” He called just before she reached the door.

“I’m here.” Chakotay turned towards her and smiled.

Still towelling her hair, she smiled in return. “It smells delicious.”

“Coffee?”

“Yes please. My reserves have been depleted. Phoebe wouldn’t let me have a cup yesterday.”

“Why ever not?”

Kathryn didn’t dare tell him the real reason – that her sister had decided she needed Chakotay more than a cup of coffee – even if it were true. She shrugged. “No reason in particular, just because she’s cruel.”

He laughed but she could tell that he was aware that she was being evasive.

“Do you want to know the real reason?”

“Only if you want to tell me.”

“Phoebe said that I was more in need of a man than caffeine.” She gave him a lopsided smile.

“Did she know whom she was talking to? If I remember, you beat the Borg with it.”

The mention of the Borg wiped the smile from Kathryn’s face. She picked up her bowl and sat at the table.

Chakotay sat opposite and handed her the milk, sugar and stewed fruits. She dutifully poured, sprinkled and dolloped without meeting his eyes. Prodding her breakfast, she took a small spoonful, although she wasn’t sure if she could swallow.

“She’s not here, Kathryn. Never has been.”

Her spoon stopped half way between the bowl and her mouth. Her eyes met his and her spoon plonked back into the bowl. “I have no right to ask about it, but would you please tell me. It can’t be any worse than what I’ve imagined.”

Chakotay shrugged. “There’s not a lot to say really, I thought I was in love with her.”

It was definitely worse. Clenching her jaw as tightly as she could to stop the inner scream from escaping, Kathryn sat without moving as her heart shattered. She’d asked and needed to know but it was another example of how overrated the truth could be. With a stiff nod, she encouraged him to continue.

“I wasn’t though – in love with her, that is. Seven recognised it first. She was merely curious and I think I was infatuated with the idea of someone being interested in me. It was rather pathetic and I’m thoroughly ashamed by my behaviour. I should have known better.”

“Shouldn’t we all.” It was a bit disconcerting hearing him echoing exactly what she’d been thinking of herself no more than half an hour ago. “How long did it last?” It was like vile tasting medicine; best to get it down in one gulp.

“Not long. From beginning to end, about two weeks, most of which was spent readying the ship to get back to the Alpha Quadrant and then we were in debriefings. It was a stupid mistake. Can you forgive me?”

“Forgive you? What for? Daring to have a life. I’m the one who should be apologising.”

“Whatever for?”

“Seven years of being a fool.” She proceeded to tell him about the previous day’s conversation about her Delta Quadrant relationship disasters, ending with Phoebe’s pearl of wisdom. “Phoebe pointed out that if I’d been with you from the beginning I wouldn’t have had to deal with all of those nightmares.”

Chakotay was staring, his mouth hanging open unattractively. It snapped shut and he sputtered. “He had no genitals?” He made a strange snorting noise and his face broke into a gleeful grin.

“Oh for god’s sake, why does everyone find that so amusing.” She heaved a sigh. “Yes, he had no genitals.”

His face was alight with amusement and his eyes were sweeping over her as he muttered. “He had no genitals.”

“For crying out loud, no he didn’t. We didn’t have sex but did you hear what else I said?”

“Sorry, I didn’t hear anything after the ‘no genital’ bit. I thought you had a relationship with him?”

“I did, sort of, but I don’t want to go into it. Do you mind? I wasn’t really me, so I figure it doesn’t count.”

“That’s fair enough. Okay, what else did you say?”

“I didn’t say it, Phoebe did, but I think she might be right. She pointed out that if you and I had been together over the years, I wouldn’t have had to deal with those disastrous relationships.”

“She’s right.”

Kathryn waited for him to elaborate but he remained silent. “That’s all you have to offer. ‘She’s right’.”

“You can’t argue with the truth. If we’d been lovers from the beginning, many of those situations would have been avoided.”

“You knew we couldn’t be.”

He nodded slowly in agreement, although it wasn’t terribly convincing. “There’s not much point revisiting what we can’t change. It’s in the past…” He leant forward and ran his finger down the back of her hand, tracing the faint lacework of veins. “…maybe it’s time we started looking towards the future.”

Kathryn stared at him, her mouth twitching with a suppressed smile. When she didn’t respond, he looked up at her and raised his eyebrows in question. Kathryn tried not to smile. “Sorry but that was pretty cheesy.”

“Cheesy?”

“Yes, you know corny, clichéd…”

“I know what it means. I can’t believe that you’re poking fun of me when I’m trying to be serious about how I feel about you.”

“How do you feel about me?”

“Irritated at the moment.”

“That’ll pass.”

“Are you sure?”

Kathryn stood up, moved around to his side of the table and straddled his lap. Draping her arms around his neck, she wriggled her bottom until she was pressed up against him. His eyes sparked with something deep and sensual. Kathryn swallowed, her voice dropping an octave. “See, its gone already, hasn’t it?”

He shook his head. “No, you’ll have to do better than that.”

Stroking her fingers through his hair, she touched the small patches of grey at his temples. She loved those. Her eyes met his briefly until her fingers wandered to his forehead and she traced the lines of his tattoo. “I’ve loved this from the first moment I saw you and I’ve wanted to do this for years.”

“Anything else?”

“I don’t have a list if that’s what you mean.”

“Just off the top of your head then.”

Kathryn cocked her head to the side and leant forward again, her lips touching his for the briefest of moments. As she pulled away, her tongue darted out to moisten her lips; his eyes were riveted to her mouth. His intense look was making her squirm. “There was that. And this.” She wrapped her arms around him and rested her head on his shoulder hugging him. “I can’t tell you how many times I wanted… needed to do this.”

His arms wrapped around her and he held her tightly to him. “There were moments when I would have given anything to hold you; to ease your pain and my own.” He got to his feet slowly, his arms still wound securely around her. “Computer play music selection seventeen.” He began to sway with her in his arms as the music wafted up the hallway from the living room. “I’ve always wanted to dance with you. We never got the chance.”

Kathryn’s body moved against his, swaying and weaving to the gentle rhythm of the music; her face pressed into the crook of his neck as her senses filled with the scent and feel of him. This was a different sort of intoxication, not as ruinous, but just as debilitating. Kathryn was glad that he had his arms around her, she wasn’t sure if she could stand on her own. Her legs were like jelly.

It was going to be all right. The empty place inside her was fast filling with love and warmth. He needed her as much as she needed him. It was a happy lesson in synchronicity. She chuckled quietly to herself and heard a corresponding rumble of laughter from him. Looking up, she grinned broadly. “Are you doing anything much for the rest of the day.”

He shook his head. “What did you have in mind?”

“At the risk of sounding too forward, how do you feel about sex?”

“In general or specifically?”

“Specifically with me.”

“Pretty good actually.”

“Phew! That’s a relief. You see, if I don’t – as my genteel sister so delicately put it – get laid soon, I’m going to explode.”

“Messy.”

“Uh huh.”

“Well in deference to your general wellbeing and those around you, I’m willing to accommodate.”

“You’re a trooper.” Kathryn laughed and kissed him soundly. “I love you.”

His wry smile broadened into one filled with love and delight. “I can’t tell you how I’ve dreamed of hearing you say that. I love you too. So very much.”

“It’s going to be all right, isn’t it?”

“I can’t guarantee ‘all right’ for the entire universe, but in our little corner of it, things are going to be wonderful.”

“I thought so. Shall we?” Kathryn pulled back a little and nodded her head towards the bedroom.

Cupping her face between his hands, he kissed her gently, nibbling at her lips before pressing his mouth to hers, his tongue sliding between her lips to tease and taste.

Breathless she pulled away and taking his hand led him to his room. Kicking the door closed behind them, Kathryn turned towards him and pulled her dress over her head. She heard his sharp intake of breath and smiled, silently thanking her trouble-making sister for her persistence.

His hands touched her bare skin and all thoughts other than Chakotay whooshed from Kathryn’s mind.

She was drunk with happiness.

*************************

Kathryn rolled over, pressing her body against Chakotay’s warmth. They’d been hiding out in his little house for three days now, having made love, many times over, in every room of the bungalow. Their relationship was off to a very healthy start considering there was seven years worth of love making to catch up on; an assignment they were tackling most diligently.

They’d fallen asleep again after a vigorous and energetic round of shower sex early this morning and Kathryn now draped her leg over Chakotay’s thighs and pressed herself into his hip; the feeling of languid delight seeped into her bones and she sighed as she snuggled closer. The warmth of his smooth skin and the heady scent of his body made her liquid with want and she began to undulate against him. She had no self-control where he was concerned. Now that the lid had been lifted and restraint thrown to the wind, all the years of abstinence and revelations of the many fantasies they’d conceived over their time in the Delta Quadrant, had her teetering on the edge of climax almost constantly. She could already feel the pulsing throb of her orgasm teasing at the edges.

Chakotay’s hand slid down over her hip and cupped her mound, his fingers dipping and sliding through her moisture. He pressed them against her throbbing clitoris and the shuddering waves of a gentle orgasm rolled through her. As the small spasms subsided, her hand wandered up Chakotay’s thigh, moving eagerly towards its goal when there was a loud hammering on the front door. Kathryn’s eyes snapped open and she looked up into the startled gaze of her lover.

Thanks to Phoebe, most of the people they knew, and many they didn’t, were aware of what was happening in the little cottage on the hill. Surely they wouldn’t… “Who could that be? You weren’t expecting anyone were you?”

Chakotay shook his head and then they both looked at one another as a scarily familiar voice bellowed from the veranda. “Kathryn, get out of bed!”

Kathryn sat up and yelled. “Go away, Phoebe. You said a week, I’ve still got four days left.”

“The Admiral sent me, I can’t leave.”

Chakotay gave Kathryn a concerned look. “Admiral? There are admirals who know about us?”

“She means mother.” Sighing, Kathryn planted a warm wet kiss on his lips and, after looking longingly at his body, slid out of bed. “Hold that thought.”

While Phoebe continued knocking, Kathryn hunted around for something to wear. She found one of Chakotay’s shirts and slipped in on, rolling up the sleeves as she padded to the door.

He smiled as he watched her; revelling in the delight of having her here, in his bed and in his heart.

Chakotay rolled out of bed after her and pulled on a pair of track pants, but didn’t bother about a shirt.

Kathryn made it to the front door, just as Phoebe started pounding again. She yanked it open, ready to give her a piece of her mind, only to be confronted by a small crowd of people.

Phoebe hugged her quickly and kissed her cheek. “About time, I was going to organise this lot to kick the damn thing in. We brought supplies. I figured you hadn’t been out to hunt and gather.”

“Phoebe, good lord, what the…?! Mom! Tom, B’Elanna, oh my god, Harry!” Kathryn didn’t know where to look or what to do. She snatched at her shirt, attempting to tug it lower and make sure that it was covering everything that it should.

Phoebe breezed past her. “Evan’s just parking the hovercar and Seven and the Doctor should be here soon.”

The uninvited guests trooped into the house, happily greeting their captain and commander, and at Phoebe’s behest, made themselves comfortable in the living room. As a stunned Kathryn and Chakotay watched, they began to unpack a large hamper that they’d brought with them and before the reluctant hosts knew what was happening, there was an indoor picnic underway.

Gretchen frowned and wagged her finger at her daughter. “Kathryn, you’re not really dressed for guests, perhaps you should go and put on something more appropriate.”

Kathryn was about to point out the fact that she was perfectly presentable for the activities she had planned for the afternoon, before they were so rudely interrupted, but she looked across the room and caught her sister’s delighted smile. With an amused shake of her head, she grabbed Chakotay’s hand and they headed back to the bedroom to change.

Once the door closed, Kathryn turned to Chakotay. “I am going to give you a blanket apology now to cover anything and everything my family may do this afternoon. Are you sure you’re ready to be part of the Janeway clan? Navigating the Delta Quadrant is going to seem like a doddle by comparison.”

Chakotay grinned and pulled her into his arms. “Hey, I like a challenge. I fell in love with you didn’t I?”

“That’s my point.”

His hands began to wander under her shirt, while her hands began to stroke over his bare chest but a loud burst of laughter from the living room brought them back to the here and now.

Chakotay stepped away from Kathryn and they rummaged for some clothes. She finished up wearing her brown dress again – there was nothing else and after they’d each showered quickly and dressed, they joined their guests.

“Kathryn, at last. Look who I brought with me. It’s your old friend Mr Pinot. Care for a wee dram.” Phoebe was holding up a familiar bottle.

It took all of Kathryn’s will power and good manners not to make a ghastly gagging noise, but instead, she shook her head and declined gracefully for the time being.

Phoebe grinned unashamedly at Chakotay and gave him the thumbs up.

Evan arrived back and, not long after that, the Doctor and Seven turned up on the doorstep. Once all the introductions were out of the way, the party well and truly got underway. Several hours later, the raucous sound of laughter could be heard from half a neighbourhood away.

Kathryn and Phoebe had escaped the noise for a moment and were standing on the front veranda staring at the night sky. Each held a glass of red wine. Phoebe turned to Kathryn and, smiling, tapped her glass against her sister’s. “Slainte, Katie.”

Kathryn grinned and repeated the toast adding a heartfelt. “Thank you.” She took Phoebe’s hand and gave it quick squeeze before letting it go. “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever felt as ghastly as I did the other day, but I wouldn’t be as happy as I am now if you hadn’t dumped me, sozzled, on this veranda.”

Phoebe nodded. “Yeah, I noticed the poor garden bed.”

Making a face, Kathryn shuddered. “That’s when I knew he really loved me. It’s not just anyone who will hold your hair off your face while you vomit. It must be true love.”

Laughing, Phoebe pulled her sister into a hug. “I’m so pleased to have you home, Katie. God, I’ve missed you.”

“It’s good to be back.”

There was another roar of laughter from inside and Evan’s voice crowed above the others. “What?! He had no genitals.”

Kathryn groaned and she thudded her head against Phoebe’s shoulder. “I’m going to have that put on a plaque.”

Phoebe pulled back and looked at Kathryn, her eyes twinkling with delight. They burst out laughing and, arms around one another, they clinked glasses and toasted to family, friends and love.

 

Fin

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